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March 2007
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Facts & Faith

Muslims and 'Ahle-Kitaab'
By Dr. Zakir Naik

Islam makes it an article of faith for the Muslims to believe in all the Messengers, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Moses, Jesus (peace be upon them all) to name a few.

Although Islam expects Muslims to be kind and just towards non-Muslims, irrespec-tive whether they are atheists, agnostics, polytheists or pantheists, there is a special place for ‘the Jews and the Christians’ in the house of Islam. Allah has never addressed them in the Qur’an, but with respectable terms such as ‘Ya Ahlal-Kitaab’, which means ‘O People of the Book’, ‘Ya Ayyuhallazeena-utul-Kitaab’ which means ‘O You who have been given the Book’ etc.

Since both, the Jews and the Christians were originally the people of the revealed religion, there exists between the Muslims and them a relationship of spiritual kinship, all having in common the principles of the one true religion sent by Allah through his Prophets (peace be upon them). But since Allah didn’t send three different religions, it is more amongst the rights of the people of the book than other non-Muslims to study Islam with due analysis, since about one third of the Qur’an is dedicated to ‘Ahle-Kitaab’. In other words the right of Ahle-Kitaab to know the truth takes precedence over the people of other faiths and beliefs.

Though both the religions, Judaism and Christianity trace their origin to ‘father Abraham (pbuh)’ Islam goes yet further tracing its origin to the first man who set foot on the earth, the father of the entire human race, Adam (pbuh). There is a common belief amongst the Jews and the Christians that ‘father Abraham (pbuh) was a Jew.’ If referring to him as a Jew suggests he was a follower of the religion ‘Judaism’, then this interpretation would be erroneous since according to the Old Testament of the Bible ‘Judaism’ was formed long after Abraham (pbuh), owing its name to the land ‘Judea’ given to the Prophet Judah. Thus says Allah in the Qur’an:

“O people of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?” (Al-Qur’an 3:65)

And Allah further confirms: “Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian, but he was true in faith and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam) and he joined not gods with Allah.” (Al-Qur’an 3:67)

However, it is nevertheless notable that the race ‘Jews’ or the children of Israel were the chosen people by Allah as He reminds us in the Qur’an:

“O children of Israel! call to mind the (special) favor which I bestowed upon You and that I preferred you to all others (for My message).” (Al-Qur’an 2:47)

Moreover, Islam makes it an article of faith for the Muslims to believe in all the Messengers, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Moses, Jesus (peace be upon them all) to name a few. Though most of the Prophets who preceded the last and final Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) were from among the Children of Israel, Muslims are asked not to make distinction or difference between any of them (Al-Qur’an 2:136, 2:285).

With regards to Prophet Jesus (pbuh), while the Jews went to one extreme considering him to be an illegitimate son of Mary, the Christians went to other extreme considering him the ‘Begotten Son of God’ and God himself. Allah addresses the Jews and the Christians in the Qur’an:

“O people of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Messenger of Allah and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers.” (Al-Qur’an 4:171)

Although it is incumbent upon every Muslim to convey the message of truth, Al-Islam to those who are outside the fold of Islam, nonetheless Allah forbids the Muslims from abusing the ‘gods’ they worship besides Allah. (Al-Qur’an 6:108).

More so, discussion with the Ahle-Kitaab is to be carried out in yet better way, since mere disputations are futile. Allah Says:

“And dispute you not with the People of the Book except with means better (than mere disputation) unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (Al-Qur’an 29:46)

In the verse quoted above Allah also says, “…unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury)”. Hence those who deliberately try to wrong or injure others require to be treated firmly.

The aim of the Muslims should be to be with urbanity, kindness and sincerity, the torchbearers and witnesses of the truth. Allah instructs Muslims to invite the Ahle-Kitaab to the common grounds, of which the first and foremost being ‘belief and worship of One true God’ (Al-Qur’an 3:64).

Though today, there may be many amongst the people of the book who may not hearken to the Word of Allah nevertheless there are certainly among them, some people about whom Allah says:

“And there are certainly among the people of the Book those who believe in Allah in the revelation to you and in the revelation to them bowing in humility to Allah: they will not sell the signs of Allah for a miserable gain! for them is a reward with their Lord and Allah is swift in account.” (Al-Qur’an 3:199)

Never turn Away from the Poor!

In the Quran (80:1-12), is a reference which teaches Muslims never to neglect a human being, never to turn away from the poor and needy, but rather to serve and love them. The Prophet was never to forget this teaching, and he repeatedly invoked God, saying: “O God, we implore You to grant us piety, dignity, spiritual wealth, and love of the poor.”

Thus the Prophet is a model for Muslims not only through the excellence of his behaviour but also through the weaknesses of his humanity, revealed and mentioned by the Quran so that Muslim consciences may never forget this message through the ages. No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interests turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. Nothing must ever lead a person to compromise this principle of faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one.

The Prophet constantly strove to be the example of and witness to this message, but in the course of their history, Muslims have often forgotten and neglected this injunction to treat the needy with respect and dignity. Even while the Prophet was still alive, his Companion Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, spoke out in a forceful and determined manner against the failings of some Muslims increasingly attracted by power, comfort, and riches. In this respect, another of the Prophet’s warnings echoes in our minds, addressing his spiritual community for the centuries to come: “For every spiritual community, there is an object of discord, tension, and disorder (fitna), and for my community, this object is money.”

(Compiled From: “In The Footsteps of the Prophet”, Tariq Ramadan)